UAVs Not Only Protect Pilots And Ground Troops... They're
They may not pay nearly as much for
fuel as you and I do... but soaring oil prices are troubling to the
US Air Force, too. The Air Force is using more high-tech platforms
such as unmanned aerial vehicles to combat extremists overseas
while it seeks ways to mitigate the rising cost of fuel, a senior
US military officer said Thursday.
Unmanned aerial systems constitute "a growth industry," Air
Force Gen. John D.W. Corley, commander of Air Combat Command and
air component chief for US Joint Forces Command, told attendees at
the 2008 Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, VA.
"There is an appetite for unmanned aerial systems, and in my
mind, I think that will continue unabated," Corley said.
Corley recalled he requested more funds to accelerate the
production of UAVs a few years ago. Since then, he said, the amount
of military UAV activity has exploded.
UAVs can provide reconnaissance or attack capabilities for
combat commanders, Corley noted. However, the system's flexibility
prompts questions, he said.
"If we use them as weapons, can we use them as replacements for
some of our historic tactical aviation assets?" Corley asked,
noting that's a question "that we have to embrace, both for the
relevance in terms of irregular warfare and beyond."
The Air Force also has seen the cost of fuel for its aircraft go
up $600 million for each $10 increase in the price of a barrel of
oil, Corley observed. Air Force logisticians are looking at
switching to alternative fuels for some aircraft to help mitigate
rising costs, Corley reported, noting that strategy represents a
viable "Plan B."
In addition, there is interest
within the Air Force to examine how more sophisticated ground-based
pilot-training systems could help to cut back on flying hours and
thus save fuel, Corley noted.
The Air Force prides itself on the outstanding capabilities
possessed by its officers and enlisted members, Corley said, as
well as the superb training regimen that keeps them ready for
"But, is there a way for us to get at some of that combat-skills
training and do it by burning less fossil fuel?" Corley asked.
The oil-price situation presents the Air Force with an
opportunity, Corley said, noting his service has "an aging fleet
that demands recapitalizing -- an aging fleet that can't fly as
frequently" due to the rising cost of fuel. The answer, Corley
said, is well beyond common simulator training, indicating that
more-sophisticated "virtual" training systems could fit the
New fuel sources and different ways of powering aircraft are
likely in the future, the general noted.
"But, as a mitigation strategy in the near term, I've got to
also deliver on increased combat capability, perhaps by flying
less, and that is a terrifying thought for an airman," Corley
(Aero-News thanks Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press